Five things for June 10, 2021. That's it! That's the excerpt.
The idea that publishers are fretting over losing a few past-their-prime bestselling authors is the least interesting aspect of Amazon's growing "traditional" publishing operation, but it sure has been driving a lot of chatter—and presumably clicks—this week. Several think pieces and a ton of tweets have been written about Amazon recently snatching up another couple of recognizable authors and what it means for the publishing industry, the latest twist on a decade-long story (remember J.A. Konrath and Seth Godin?), but it's just another symptom of an illness corporate publishing has been suffering from for years.
In reality, markets consist of human beings and the conversations they have with each other, and those conversations can be messy and involve multiple points of influence. For authors trying to develop an effective and sustainable digital strategy, that means you’re not just competing with similar authors and books for readers’ attention—hello, myopic comp titles!—you’re competing with readers themselves and the various channels they use to connect with each other. With the right strategy, though, you're not competing with anyone—you're authentically engaging with and contributing to a dynamic community.
If you're white and work in publishing, the path to creating a more diverse industry that represents the real world is actually a lot clearer than it is for those who are underrepresented. You're the default; you have access and influence and the ability to drive change from the inside. And thankfully, I know many who are doing exactly that and I appreciate their efforts. But what about the rest of us? How can we help drive change in this industry we care so much about, despite it so often not caring all that much about us?
In these final days of 2015, here we are, with a traditional publishing industry that's evolved to include new players and business models, alongside an independent publishing industry that's steadily growing and continually evolving, too. What we haven't seen are the radical disruptions that so many predicted were right on the horizon...
In the beginning, when I was trying to sell my first novel, I had a weird experience of editors really wanting me to write, sort of magic realism set in the Caribbean, or about recent immigrants with a magical ability (I've had two editors actually give me that logline and ask if I'd be interested in writing that story, but it's just not there for me, I've got other stories still to tell). There was a strong sense that, hey, this is how you can be marketed as a Caribbean novelist.
And that is ultimately the point I took from Biggs' post. Again, it's not new, but when so many outside observers feel the need to continually repeat it, maybe it's because the message isn't getting through to those who need to hear it?
Being sold for only slightly more than the revenue you brought in the prior year isn't exactly a signal that anyone believes the company has a lot of growth potential, especially not one whose roster theoretically covers the full gamut of shiny author services so many seem to believe are publishing's revenue streams of the future. Plus, ASI was apparently on the block for a while with no buyer, so I find Penguin's CEO John Makinson's claim odd, as reported by Publisher's Lunch, that he expects there will be a "new and growing category of professional authors who are going to gravitate towards the ASI solution rather than the free model." So then, what's the real angle here?
While it's interesting to see the affiliate script flipped on Amazon, with their redirecting traffic to purchase the ebooks (surely with a nice cut of the revenue), the user experience leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you're used to purchasing your ebooks via the Kindle itself and/or the apps. The whole setup seems to be targeting hardcore fans—most of whom have probably already downloaded the ebooks for free via a torrent site—while asking the more casual reader to jump through hoops Amazon and B&N, in particular, have worked hard to eliminate.
What comes with authors' shift to the business side is the reality that the water gets a lot deeper, particularly when it comes to attending conferences and registration fees. If you want to be a true self-publisher, there's a lot more to it than uploading your file to Amazon, and that includes bearing larger expenses like conference registration fees.